11 Free Tools to Make Your Captioning Process Easier in 2018!

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Adding captions to video contents has a lot of benefits to both audiences and content creators in terms of accessibility and SEO, but as we all know, the process of creating captions is not always easy.

By choosing the tools best fit your working style, you can save a lot of time and energy and complete your captions in a shorter amount of time.

We know most people don’t have the time to research all the tools that available online to make the best decision, so we have done the heavy-lifting for you!

How to make closed captions and transcriptions efficiently?

I have reviewed 11 captioning/subtitling tools, which are organized in the categories from transcription tools, captioning platforms, to captioning software to help you choose the one works best for you! 

I list a benefits and shortcomings summary for each of them to help you decide which one is the best tool for you. You also can use them side by side or serially to make your captioning process as efficient as possible!

Ps. In this post, I will focus on discussing tools that creating “closed caption“, which is generally more beneficial to both audiences and content creators in terms of SEO and accessibility, you can see our discussion at the end of the article.

You can use the following links to jump to the topic or a specific tool review you are interested in!

How to make captions and transcriptions efficiently?

There are two processes involved in closed captioning/subtitling that might consume you a mass amount of time: turning voice into text and putting text in the right position on the timeline.

The first process is called transcription, and the later we call it captioning, let’s start with transcription tools reviews. Here you go:

Free Machine Transcription Tools

There are a lot of free machine-transcribe tools online, however, most of them are disastrously inaccurate to the point that you will have to make correction every three words, which miss the entire point of machine transcription.  I have tried out a lot of them for you and boiled them down to some good options.

So following are the best machine transcription tools that I have tried that have at least 85% of accuracy.

Google Doc Voice-typing Tool(combined with Soundflower)

What?! Google doc has a built-in voice-typing tool? Yes, it has. And it’s pretty accurate compared to most of the free voice typing tools online.

It’s super easy to use, just go to your google doc, create a doc file, select Tool->Voice typing…->select your language and accent using the drop-down menu on top of the microphone icon->hit microphone icon before you play your video or audio

However, the accuracy of using microphone input to voice-typing your video transcription might be affected by the surrounding noise, and even there is no obvious noise source around you, an extra process of sound input and output will still decrease the accuracy of your transcription.

One way to get around with the problem is to use Soundflower to create direct sound output and input. The following video demonstrates how to use Google Doc voice-typing alongside with Soundflower.

Another downside of using Google Doc voice-typing tool is that it sometimes stops transcribing between sentences, so you have to re-hit the recording icon to keep transcribing. However, when you are using the Soundflower output, you can’t hear the output sound by default which makes it very difficult to monitor the transcription progress. To get around with this, you can create a MIDI output include both Soundflower and built-in sound output and you will be able to hear the sound and having a Soundflower output at the same time.

Benefits Summary

  • Completely free
  • No download required(even you might want to download Soundflower to create direct sound out/input)
  • Very accurate(about 85% accuracy)
  • Support multiple languages and accents( I have tried both English and Mandrian, both are super accurate)

Shortcomings

  • You might need to re-hit the recording icon several times during the transcription

Temi(Free trial for one use)

I have tried Temi once for my in-depth interview for my college graduate project.  It was super accurate compared to most of the machine-transcription tools available online. After generating my transcription using Temi,  all I need to do is to correct some technical terms and that’s it!

The benefit of using Temi is that you don’t need to monitor the transcribing process, you don’t need to re-hit the recording button or download any software. Just upload your audio or video file and they will do all the heavy lifting for you. By the way, one of their cool features is that it can identify the speakers for you if you want to specify who is the speaker in your subtitles for better accessibility.

However, it only provides one free transcription for your audio or video for any given lens.(So, make sure you save it for a long one!)

Benefits Summary

  • Hyper-accurate( about 95% accuracy)
  • It can identify the speakers for you

Shortcomings

  • Only have one-use free trial

Free Closed Captioning Platforms

For closed captioning tools, I want to start from online platforms, which means there is no download required, you can just go to the online environment and start captioning your video and publish/download your results directly.

All of these tools enable you to create cations online while some of them with extra functions like directly sync your captions to your streaming services or collaborative working interface, I also give each of them a summary of benefits and shortcomings to help you choose the one that suits you!

Amara Public

I know what are you thinking about right now. But I swear I am not putting Amara in the first place just because it’s our product. I put it in the first place also because it’s one of the most intuitive and powerful captioning platforms online that can save you a lot of time while captioning. And it’s totally free!

To start, you just need to signup for an account.( You can also sync with your Facebook, Google, Twitter, OpenID, even Ted and Udecity account so it just a matter of several clicks)

Then you go to free platform->paste the link of your video->hit Add a new language! on your left side of screen-> follow the prompts to start captioning->publish and download your desired caption format!

One of the benefits of Amara is it also enables collaborative captioning and translation. After you uploaded your video on Amara,  you can simply paste the link of your Amara video page on your social media, forums or send the video to your friends to ask them helping your captioning or translate them into other languages!

Another big plus of Amara is that you can directly sync your subtitles to your original videos without extra steps of download/upload once you sync your Youtube, Vimeo, Twitter and Facebook account with Amara.

The following short video demonstrating how to use Amara platform in just 5 Mins.

The only short-coming of Amara public platform is that you can’t directly upload video to Amara platform, so before you start, make sure you have already uploaded your video to an online environment. The good news is it supports almost all the online streaming environments you can think of including YouTube, Dailymotion, Vimeo, Dropbox or simply uploaded to a blog or a website.

Benefits Summary

  • Completely free
  • No download required
  • Directly sync your subtitles with Youtube, Vimeo, Facebook and Twitter without extra steps of download/upload( If you own the channel)
  • You can position your subtitles while playing the video using up and down buttons without having to pause several times
  • You can move/trim/adjust your caption’s “timestamp bars” on the timeline in a visualized manner
  • Built-in revision and activity history that lets you monitor changes and progress.
  • No need to manage tool updates you always get the latest version when you navigate to Amara.
  • Easy to work with others collaboratively
  • Easy to share your captioning/translation result( You can embed your video on your blog/website or share the link)
  • Intuitive interface and workflow with step by step prompts
  • Intuitive keyboard shortcuts instruction showing right on the screen while you are captioning
  • Easy for collaborative translation after captioning
  • Existing translation and captioning community

Shortcomings

  • You can’t directly upload your video

Export

You can export the following subtitle formats

  • .dfxp, .srt, .ssa, .sbv, .txt, or .vtt 

Youtube Automatic Captioning

If your video was recorded in English, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, or Spanish, Youtube automatic captioning might save you a lot of time.

It’s also super easy to use. If your video is in English, they will start the auto-captioning at the time you upload your video. But if your video is in other above-mentioned languages, you can just go to your video editing page->Subtitles or CC->Add new subtitles or CC and follow the prompts to create your subtitles on demand->review and edit your captions before publish and download it.

The following video demonstrates how to edit and download your captions on youtube:

Benefits summary

  • Completely free
  • Automatic sync captions on the corresponded position of the timeline
  • You can adjust your captions’ timestamp using visualized “timestamp bars”
  • Easy to work collaboratively(You can enable the video for community contributions and let your viewers caption and translate your content )

Shortcomings

  • Only available in English, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish at the time of writing
  •  Some people said its auto transcription is less accurate than google doc
    • But I just tried this function with my English video, it seems at least about as accurate as Google Doc Voice-typing Tool in English so I would like to hear your opinion if you happen to have tried both

Export

  • You can only download .sbv before published
  • After publishing you can also download .vtt, .srt

Dotsub 

The biggest benefit of Dotsub is it allows you to directly upload your video to the platform and work on your captions before you publishing it in any online environments. They also have a lot of useful keyboard shortcuts readily available on the right side of the screen.

Like Amara Public, it also allows you to collaboratively caption and translate your video so you can share your video page to ask your friends or online community to translate your video into other languages or caption it.

Benefits summary

  • Completely free
  • You can save your progress in the account
  • The keyboard shortcuts are available on the right side of the screen
  • You can directly upload videos up to 4 GB
  • You can use their keyboard shortcut to add timestamps for captions so you don’t have to hand-typing it every time
  • Easy for collaborative translation after captioning
  • Yoy can sync your captions and translations to Youtube and Vimeo directly

Shortcomings

  • Even you can use their keyboard shortcut to add timestamps, they don’t have visualized “timestamp bars” for you to adjust positions so you have to manually add time codes for each caption

Export

You can export the following subtitle formats

    • .srt, .stl, .dfxp, .ssa, .qt, .vtt, .txt, .csv, .sbv

Subtitle Horse

If you hate to go through the registering process for an account before using an online platform, you might want to use Subtitle Horse because there is no registering required. However, it also means that you can’t save your captioning progress, so you have to download your captions and upload them again if you are planning to complete your captions in multiple working sessions.

In Dotsub you need to hit the enter after adding a current timestamp to create a new caption. On Subtitle Horse, you can hit” add at current time” or “add after the last title” and they will directly create a new caption start from current timestamp or right after the last caption.

It sounds like a very little difference but it will make your captioning process way easier if you prefer to set up every caption timestamps before start typing your “captioning contents” because you will be able to set up all the timestamps while playing through the video instead of going through “play->add starting timestamp->pause->add ending timestamp-> hit enter to create a caption-” process when every you are creating a caption timestamp.

Benefits summary

  • Completely free
  • No account registering required
  • They have” add at current time” or “add after the last title” button to add a new caption and it’s timestamp at the same time in just one hit

Shortcomings

  • Harder to adjust timestamps after adding the captions
  • No account also means you can’t save your captioning progress, so you have to download your captions and upload them again if you are planning to complete your captions in multiple working session
  • Hard to collaboratively working with others

Export

  • .srt,.sbv,.vtt, TimedText, Encore, JSON

Free Closed Captioning Software( Download required)

The following closed captioning tools require you to download a software before you start working on your captions.

Aegisubs

Aegisubs give you a lot of flexibility to design your captions’ font family, size, color, outline and even rotate your captions. You can even decide they should appear in which part of the screen through the interface.

It has a visualized “audio wave” to help you replay a certain part of a video. You can zoom in and out of the audio wave to better target your captions’ timestamp which enables you to replay a certain part of the audio. However, this function is purely for replaying, you can’t create a caption with selected timestamps directly through this function which I think it should be able to.

Benefits summary

  • Completely free
  • You can set up font family, size, color, outline and even rotate your captions in the interface
  • You have more flexibility to decide where the captions showing up in the video
  • With visualized “audio wave” to help you target a certain part of audio to replay while you are captioning

Shortcomings

  • Download required
  • You can’t edit while playing, sometimes you need to check which “wave” should link to which “subtitle” by re-playing it several times
  • Timestamp setting up for captions is very tedious
  • Keyboard shortcuts are not readily available, you have to find it from the menu
  • Hard to collaboratively working with others

Export

  • .ass, .stl, .encore, .sub, .srt, .ssa, .ttxt, .txt

Visualsubsync

Visualsubsync is another software featuring visualized “audio wave”. However, you can select their visualized “audio wave” and create a caption directly with that certain timestamp by rightclick->create subtitle. You can also zoom in and out of the audio wave to better target your captions’ timestamp.

Benefits summary

  • Completely free
  • Intuitive
  • With visualized “audio wave” to help you target a certain part of an audio
  • You can select their visualized “audio wave” and create a caption directly with that certain timestamp.

Some shortcomings

  • Download required
  • Don’t have OS version for Mac
  • Hard to collaboratively working with others

Export

  • .srt, .cue, .csv, .txt, .ass, .ssa

Jubler

The interface and features of Jubler are very similar to Visualsubsync, you can also select their visualized “audio wave” and create a caption directly with that certain timestamp.

However, Jubler has OS version for Mac, and it gives you more flexibility to set up font family, size, color, and outline. It also presents the visualized “caption bars” on the timeline, but it’s purely presentational, you can’t move/trim/adjust the bar directly.

Benefits summary

  • Completely free
  • Has OS version for Mac
  • It gives you more flexibility to set up font family, size, color, and outline.
  • With visualized “audio wave” to help you target a certain part of an audio
  • You can select their visualized “audio wave” and create a caption directly with that certain timestamp.

Shortcomings

  • Download required
  • Hard to collaboratively working with others

Export

  • .srt, .csv, .txt, .ass, .ssa, .stl, .sub, .xml, .dfxp

Divxland

If you like to do your transcription and “putting text in the video” in two respectively working session, Divxland can be very helpful.

Before you start, you should prepare two files: A complete transcription saved as .txt and a video file. Then you simply just start syncing them by hitting the apply button while playing the video. The following video demonstrates how to do it.

Benefits summary

  • Completely free
  • You can put the subtitle on the timeline while the video is playing, and sync the subtitle to that specific time code.

Shortcomings

  • Download required
  • Don’t have OS version for Mac
  • Harder to adjust the positions of captions on the timeline after you put it on the timeline since it doesn’t have visualized “caption bars” on the timeline

Export

  • .srt, .csv, .txt, .ass, .ssa, .stl, .sub, .xml, .dfxp…and more

Ahd subtitles maker

Ahd subtitles maker is another software allows you move/trim/adjust your caption’s “timestamp bars” on the timeline in a visualized manner. It also gives you relatively more flexibility to style your captions and support a variety of export formats. Their visualized”timestamp bars” is modifiable so you can adjust the caption timestamp in a visualized manner.

Benefits summary

  • Completely free
  • It gives you more flexibility to set up font family, size, color, and outline.
  • You can move/trim/adjust your caption’s “timestamp bars” on the timeline in a visualized manner

Shortcomings

  • Download required
  • Don’t have OS version for Mac
  • Hard to collaboratively working with others

Export

  • .srt, .csv, .txt, .ass, .ssa, .stl, .sub, .xml, .dfxp…and more

By the way, what’s the difference between Closed and Open Caption?

In this post, we focus on discussing closed caption tools. But what closed caption means? To understand it, let’s draw an important distinction between two kinds of captions, Closed Caption and Open Caption since they powered by very different technologies and provide different benefits respectively.

The following short video( No longer than three mins!) will give you an overview of the differences between closed caption and open caption.

The following table summarizes the relative benefits of Closed Caption compared to Open caption.

Summary of the Pro and Cons of Open/Close Caption

Difference between Open/Closed Caption Open Caption Closed Caption
Pros
  • You can push captions to your audiences without their demand
  • Typically have more flexibility to visually style and animate your captions
  • You are able to display your caption in online environments that don’t support closed caption
  • The audiences can decide whether or not the captions are displayed
  • Easier to include multiple languages
  • Easier to sync or upload to several media outlets
  • Easier to make derivative contents out of captions
  • Easier to modify or correct your captions after they are published or exported
  • Beneficial for SEO purpose
Cons
  • Harder to include multiple languages
  • Can’t be read by the search engine so it does not directly benefit SEO
  • Less flexibility to style and animate your captions
  • Some online environments don’t support closed caption

There are a lot of file formats for closed captions,I have listed the most common ones below. 

Common Captions’ Formats

  • PGS (BluRay)
  • VOB (DVD)
  • SubRip (.srt)(the most common subtitle format supported by most video players)
  • WebVTT (.vtt)(Web Video Text Track format, which is similar to SRT, but does not number subtitles)
  • Substation Alpha (.ass)(SSA ,SubStation Alpha subtitle format)
  • Youtube Subtitles (.sbv)
  • JSON (TED.com) Subtitles (.json)
  • TTML (.dfxp)((Timed Text Markup Language, subtitles in an XML file))(DFXP (Distribution Format Exchange Profile format))
  • SCC (Scenarist Closed Captions, for western languages)
  • CAP (Videotron Lambda captions)
  • MicroDVD(.sub)

Are There Any Fantastic Free Caption Tools We Missed?

There you have it. I tried my best to compile most of the tools that I found useful online. But we would like to hear your opinions!
If you happened to have tried any free captioning/subtitling tool you found useful, let us know! Otherwise, share us your experiences on using these tools we listed and how do you make the most out of them!

 

2 comments

  1. Recently I experienced YOUTUBE sound recognition for transacription but in dispair. Not as I expected. So I am eagerly seeking any application or something like that. And I found out this morning soundflower in your sent e-mail. However I am novice to handle rb file and I don’t have MacOS. So I want you to provide explaining tutorials of installing your provided recent soundflower or provide window version of it. Would you do this? Please…

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